The Tasaru Girls Rescue Center offers a refuge for girls who want to escape a destiny of female circumcision. The Christian Science Monitor reports on a girl named Milicent, whose cousin helped her flee when her mother and grandmother insisted she be circumcised. "In my community, it is difficult for a girl who is not circumcised to get married." She was 13 at the time — she is now 18, and Milicent says, "If I hadn't come here, I would be a mother of two or three children by now. My community should understand, by not getting married early, I can get a better education, and a job to earn money for my family." 38 percent of Kenyan women between the ages of 15 and 19, and more than half of women over the age of 35 have been circumcised, according to the Kenyan Ministry of Health. Though the practice has been banned twice in Kenya, it's hard to regulate, and in some tribes like Kisii and the Masai, over 85% of women are circumcised. [CS Monitor]
I think Western women see it as mutilation, and if our mothers or grandmothers were to perform this on us, without this practice being an inherent part of our local culture, we would be shocked and terrified.
But we have to respect the fact that some women who live in areas where this is fairly common are taught to think it is a right of passage. And this is where a lot of hosility and misunderstanding come in. I think a lot of the horror we feel is due to the fact taht some times female circumcision (mutilation is no longer the "PC" term, to all those that wish to use it- not my choice, but I'll go with it) is done with sharp rocks or pieces of glass. This is a problem. The first step is to not tell another culture that what they are doing is morally wrong, because is their eyes, it is not. Simple as that. There are rites of passage that men and women in our country go through- well, some women and men in Africa believe that this is a right of passage for women.
So instead of playing the holier-than-thou game, perhaps we can stop the, "Holy fucking shit this is just another way to abuse women and keep them down" (and don't get me wrong, I do not approve of this in any way and I do believe that it is a way to control young girls and harm them) and work to give those who still believe in this practice safe and hygenic means to perform it (much like the practice of giving drug addicts clean needles- if they're going to do it, they might as well be clean about it.)And then, continue to provide shelters and help for those girls who refuse to have this procedure happen to them. It's simply not as wasy as walking into a country, saying, "Stop that, it's mean and it hurts girls," and then walk back out.